By Associated Press - Wednesday, April 28, 2021

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey regulators have approved a three-year $300 million annual subsidy, funded by utility ratepayers, for the state’s nuclear industry.

The Board of Public Utilities voted Tuesday to renew the program, authorized under a 2018 law, for another three years.

New Jersey’s biggest utility, PSEG, operates the state’s three nuclear plants, Hope Creek, Salem 1 and Salem 2, all in southern Jersey. Some estimates show residential rate payers could pay $40 more per year, with commercial customers seeing increases of about 50%.

Nuclear power accounts for an estimated two-fifths of the state’s electricity production.

The subsidy passed the Legislature and was signed by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy in 2018.

PSEG argued it needed to get the subsidies or else it would shut down its nuclear plants. The plants also have zero carbon emissions, which the utility has pitched as a key part of the efforts to reach 100% clean energy by 2050.

In a statement, PSEG said the decision would help the environment, save jobs and avoid higher energy costs. Opponents of the subsidies argue it’s not clear they’re needed and it’s unfair the company gets what it demanded, while consumers have to pay.

Stefanie Brand, the director of the Division of Rate Counsel, which advocates for utility ratepayers, said regulators faced market and political pressure from PSEG to approve the subsidies.

“Unfortunately ratepayers don’t have that power,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “We are the hostages. We don’t get to make those demands.”

Brand said she anticipates an appeal to the regulators’ decision. An earlier challenge is currently pending before the state Supreme Court.

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